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Legendary writer with particular love for the Irish

IN the middle of Norman Mailer's novel 'An American Dream', the following much-quoted line appears: "The Irish are the only men who know how to cry for the dirty, polluted blood of all the world."

Mailer had a particular affection for the Irish and an interest in Irish-America, not least because although both his parents were Jewish, his ancestry was supposed to include some Irish blood.

In 1969, Mailer ran for Mayor of New York on an electoral platform he shared with the Irish American author and newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin, who was running for New York City Council president. The pair gave a colourful news conference at the time, during which they were asked at one point how they came up with their poll figures. "With an abacus," Breslin said.

Blessing

Mailer's success did not come just because he was a talented writer. He also worked extremely hard -- something that tends to be forgotten because of his hell-raising image -- and he continued to do so even in recent years when he was pestered by health problems. In a recent interview he said: "I used to write 10 hours a day, now I can do three or four in the afternoon. Any day you can work is a blessing.''

Jimmy Breslin, in particular, remembered Mailer's phenomenal work rate in a tribute he paid at the weekend to his friend: "When you talk of Norman Mailer, right away I see Van Gogh's workboots. Norman was a working man. Lord, did he work.

"From one end of his life to the other, he sat in solemn thought and left so much to read, so many pages with ideas that come at you like sparks spitting from a fire. He leaves them to a nation that has surrendered all its years to converting truth to an untruthful excuse for killing.

"You ask me about Norman Mailer and I tell you about talking to a large crowd at Brooklyn College during the politics of 1969. He argued brilliantly for the absolute necessity of the minds of whites and blacks growing by being in the same city school classrooms."

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